Vlog Episode 8.1 - People are Good
So, we’re starting off with a physicist accustomed to making precise statements saying boldly, “People are good.” He didn’t say, “People are often good,” or “People are mostly good.” He just said, “People are good.” And there’s a period at the end of that.
The first thing that comes to mind when we hear this is all the people who weren’t good to us. What about that guy that cut me off in traffic, and my co-worker who stabbed me in the back? These are good people? The first thing we want to do when we hear this is call bullshit.
But Goldratt’s point isn’t that people always act nice or even always do the right thing. His point is that when we resort to derogatory explanations for that behavior we lose our chance at correcting the situation. His point is that people act according to their circumstances. When they aren’t behaving well, we will find the cause, not in their base nature, but in these circumstances.
We do this in addiction treatment all the time. When a patient isn’t doing well in a treatment center, it’s very common for the patient to get the blame. “Oh, he’s one of these guys who just doesn’t want recovery.” “You know, I guess he has some more research to do before he’ll believe us.”
I was talking to a very good addiction doctor just yesterday who was telling me about a complicated case. At one point she said about the patient, “Oh, this guy’s a mess.” As soon as we start thinking like that we cut off the necessity for using logic. You no longer have to work to understand the patient, because he’s not understandable. Who can understand a mess? If he’s a mess, the burden shifts from me to the universe. Just like in recovery, our best way forward is to look at our own part, not blaming the other guy.
But even if you’re convinced that someone is not good, that they are the source of the problem, Goldratt’s point is that you have to make the opposite assumption in order to fix the problem. If you want to make quantum leaps of improvement in any situation, your number one assumption has to be that people are good. If we want to end addiction as a problem in our lifetime, this is job one!